Is Jesus God?
This week for the Word for Wednesday, I am going to present a new series entitled "Is Jesus God?" I may not always do it on Wednesdays, but I hope that this series will inspire you and help to establish you in your faith...
Was Jesus God? Muslims claim He was a good prophet; Jehovah's Witnesses claim He was just a good teacher (or "a god," according to John 1:1); some Jews claim that He is the Messiah; skeptics claim that He does not exist; Christians claim that He is God's Son, that He is God. So is Jesus God? Let me begin this discussion by saying that I believe in the Trinity -- God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit -- they are all One. Jesus is God. I think most Christians would agree, but for those who hold to other views, I would like to examine this topic in detail. I want to warn everyone -- this is LONG; I am in the process of a very detailed study on this topic. (For this reason, I will be presenting this in a series of posts over the next several weeks.) However, I assure you that it is well worth your time if you have ever wondered, "Is Jesus God?" or, "Did Jesus claim to be God?" And if you already believe that Jesus is God, well, you might still learn something... ;) So let's begin.
The best place to begin this examination is in the Gospel of John. John the Apostle was very close to Jesus; he is called "the disciple whom Jesus loved," and he presents some of Jesus' more personal discussions not seen in the other three Gospels. Let's start at the very beginning -- John chapter 1: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not." Who is this speaking about? To answer this question, we will examine several other passages of Scripture. First, let's look at Proverbs 4:20-23 "My son, give attention to my WORDS; Incline your ear to my sayings.Do not let them depart from your eyes; Keep them in the midst of your heart; For they are LIFE to those who find them, And health to all their flesh. Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life." Jesus says of Himself in John 6:63 "It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the WORDS that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are LIFE." From this we can see that the Word is life, John says "In Him was life", and Jesus says of Himself that His words are life -- Jesus is life and Jesus is the Word! In the John 1:1 passage, John says, "And the Word was God." Notice that he doesn't say, "He was God's Son"; he says that He WAS God -- they are One. If this isn't clear enough, we also know that Jesus came into the world preceeded by John the Baptist. The very next verse in John 1 states, "There was a man sent from God whose name was John," and it goes on to state, "This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name..." Compared to what we know about Jesus from the New Testament, we can clearly see that this passage is speaking about Jesus, and we have already established that Jesus -- the Word made flesh -- WAS God. But there is another important point about this passage -- it states that Jesus "was the true Light"; 1 John 1:5 states, "God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all." This is yet another point proving that Jesus is God. And there is still one more significant point in this passage: John starts by stating "IN THE BEGINNING was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made." So did God create Jesus before He created anything else, or was Jesus there to begin with? Well, John states that the Word was "with God"; if I am "with" someone, I am by there side or in the general area -- but we are BOTH there at the same time. To put it another way, if a book says that it comes "with" hardcover and golden lettering, those features are a PART of the book; they are not separate. So it is with the Trinity; they are One and the same, yet they compliment each other. But to get back to the "IN THE BEGINNING" statement -- Genesis 1 has a few interesting clues to the discussion of Christ's Deity. Genesis 1:1-3, 26 states, "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.... And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness..." There are three things we should notice about this Scripture: first, the Spirit of God was moving upon the face of the waters; second, God commanded there to be light before He created the sun; and third, God said, "Let US make man in our own image." Putting these three things together we have the following: 1) God and the Spirit were both present at the creation of the world; 2) God is light, and we already established that Jesus is also light; therefore, since there was no sun at the beginning, the SON was the light -- that is, God eminated a part of Himself to light the world (I'll explain that in a moment); 3) and the use of the word "US" signifies that there was more than one person; we know from the previous two facts that the whole TRINITY was present IN THE BEGINNING, not at the creation of the world -- they were there PRIOR to the earth's creation. Let's examine each point a little more closely.
1) God and the Spirit were both present at the Creation -- Remember, Genesis 1:4 says that the Spirit of God was brooding [literal translation] over the face of the earth. So we know that God created, and we will see in point 3 that Jesus also created, but did the Spirit create? If so, this would prove the Trinity. Psalm 104:30 states, "You send forth Your Spirit, they are created; And You renew the face of the earth." In addition, the context of this passage shows that Jesus -- Who is our Wisdom, as we stated before -- is one with the Spirit: The passage begins, "O LORD, how manifold are Your works! In WISDOM You have made them all." (Again, see point 3 for a further explaination.)
2) God/Jesus are light and this Light was emanated by Them at the beginning -- John MacArthur has an excellent explaination for this, part of which is as follows: "Of all God's creation, the thing that most clearly reveals and most closely approximates His glory is light. That's why He Himself is called 'the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning' (James 1:17). In other words, all true spiritual light emanates from Him. No matter how He turns, He casts no shadow, nor is He ever in the shadows, because He is pure light, "and in Him there is no darkness at all" (1 John 1:5). Like the sun , but more perfectly than the sun, He broadcasts light with no taint of any shadow. "Light dwells with Him" (Daniel 2:22), and He "[dwells] in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see" (1 Timothy 6:16). Created light represents His glory more nearly than any other aspect of creation. Like Him, it illuminates and makes known all else. Without light, all creation would remain cold and dark" (The Battle for the Beginning, page 73). Now before we go on to see what MacArthur says about the physics of light, I wanted to point out that if there is no "shadow of turning" with God, and "God is light, and Him is no darkness at all," then God must have emanated a part of Himself when He said, "Let there be light." Why? Because the "darkness was on the face of the deep" which was covering the void earth, and there is no darkness with God -- when God came on the scenes, light was! MacArthur goes on, "Light is a form of energy. It is essentially electromagnetic radiation, including every frequency. .... The appearance of everything we see is a result of how light waves reflect off objects. .... Yet, amazingly, light cannot be seen by the human eye except when it interacts with matter. A beam of light shining in the sky at night would be invisible if there were not tiny particles in the air that reflect it. A flashlight turned on in outer space will send out a beam that is completely invisible, except where it strikes an object. .... Light is the single most important source of energy and heat on earth. Without light, life on earth would be impossible. Virtually all the earthly mechanisms we depend upon for the transfer of energy are derived ultimately from light. .... Scripture says, 'God saw the light, that it was good' (Genesis 1:4). .... Creation is good because God is good. All that He created was good. He declared light good because it was a reflection of Himself. He is the standard and definition of all that is good" (pages 83-84). I would also like to add that when MacArthur says, "light cannot be seen by the human eye except when it interacts with matter," this applies to God's command, "Let there be light!" God Himself, the true Light, interacted with the matter of the unformed earth with great energy and there was light! And just as MacArthur says, "Without light, life on earth would be impossible," likewise, without God Who is Light, life would be impossible; there would still be a dark, void earth and no light -- a world not suitable for life. But in Him is life; that's why we DO have such a unique planet that can sustain life. Psalm 33:6-9 states, "By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, And all the host of them by the breath of His mouth. He gathers the waters of the sea together as a heap; He lays up the deep in storehouses. Let all the earth fear the LORD; Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him. For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast." Therefore, when God said, "Let there be light," there was light -- a reflection of Himself; He spoke it into existence -- "He calls those things which be not as though they were." As a side note, in this context, it is also interesting that the etymology of the word "universe" is "uni," which means "one," and "verse" -- in one verse (Genesis 1:1) God made the heavens and the earth and everything that is in them. Also consider Colossians 1:17, "And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist." The word "consist" is often translated "hold together"; and through science, we know that atoms hold everything together. What does this have to do with God? Well, the first verse in Genesis can be translated scientifically to mean the following: "In the beginning [time], God created [power] the heavens [space] and the earth [matter]." So at the Creation, time, space, power, and matter where all present -- this is exactly what scientist say is necessary! But to get back to the point, if matter was there at the beginning -- and we know it was -- that means that the atoms where also created along with it, because matter cannot hold together without tiny particles called atoms! Hebrews 11:3 states it much more clearly: "By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible." Atoms are not visible, and yet science has found that they do exist and that they hold the matter together -- the matter which allows us to see the object. So it is amazing that "In Him, all things consist!" God spoke the atoms into existence, and He can speak them out of existence (see 2 Peter 3:10)! People say all the time, "But how could plants survive for a few days without the sun?" However, just because there was no sun, that does not mean that there was no light, as is evidenced by the Scriptures. All things exist and hold together through Christ -- at one word, the Light of God was created to sustain those plants until the creation of the heavenly bodies which included the sun!
3) "Let US make..." signifies the Trinity at creation -- First, let's have a little lesson in Hebrew grammar. The Hebrew word for "God" in this passage is "elohim." This is a plural noun in Hebrew, and it is used in twenty-one of the first twenty-five verses of the Bible. This is suggestive of the Trinity. We stated in point 1 that the Spirit was hovering over the waters and that He, in fact, created. Genesis says that God created the world. John says that the Word was with God in the beginning. But some will still say that Jesus was created in the beginning before God started the rest of the creating process, and that only God creates. The main crux of the argument is this Scripture (which we mentioned partly in point 2): "He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist" (Col 1:15-17). Firstly, this Scripture is speaking about Jesus, and it says that He, too, creates. It also says that Jesus is the exact copy of God. Secondly, I would point to this Scripture: "But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God--and righteousness and sanctification and redemption..." (1Co 1:30). Why this Scripture, which seems to have no connection? Because it states that Jesus is our wisdom; now let's look at Proverbs 8. Wisdom is talking here, and here is what He says (vs. 22-31), "The LORD possessed me at the beginning of His way, BEFORE His works of old. I have been established FROM EVERLASTING, From the beginning, before there was ever an earth. When there were no depths I was brought forth, When there were no fountains abounding with water. Before the mountains were settled, Before the hills, I was brought forth; While as yet He had not made the earth or the fields, Or the primeval dust of the world. When He prepared the heavens, I was there, When He drew a circle on the face of the deep, When He established the clouds above, When He strengthened the fountains of the deep, When He assigned to the sea its limit, So that the waters would not transgress His command, When He marked out the foundations of the earth, Then I was beside Him as a master craftsman; And I was daily His delight, Rejoicing always before Him, Rejoicing in His inhabited world, And my delight was with the sons of men." Here, again, we see that Jesus creates. We also see that Jesus was with God "from everlasting"; therefore, He has always been, just as God has always been. The phrase "firstborn of creation" does not mean that Jesus was born and then He created, nor does the term "brought forth"; rather, this is a reference to His Resurrection. This is evidenced in Acts 13:33-37 : "God has fulfilled this for us their children, in that He has raised up Jesus. As it is also written in the second Psalm: 'You are My Son, Today I have BEGOTTEN You.' And that He raised Him from the dead, no more to return to corruption, He has spoken thus: 'I will give you the sure mercies of David.' Therefore He also says in another Psalm: 'You will not allow Your Holy One to see corruption.' For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell asleep, was buried with his fathers, and saw corruption; but He whom God raised up saw no corruption." Acts 2 (23-32) also affirms this: "Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death; whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it. For David says concerning Him: 'I foresaw the LORD always before my face, For He is at my right hand, that I may not be shaken. Therefore my heart rejoiced, and my tongue was glad; Moreover my flesh also will rest in hope. For You will not leave my soul in Hades, Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption. You have made known to me the ways of life; You will make me full of joy in Your presence.' Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne, he, foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption. This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses." So points 1 and 3 together prove the following: God created. Jesus created. The Holy Spirit created. They were all present in the beginning; therefore, they are all One.
The Bible states, "For there are three that bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one" (1 John 5:7).
There is much more to the discussion which we will continue to get into over the next several weeks; we have only scratched the surface. However, I believe that the main stumbling block for people is this line of argument (which even many skeptics use): 1 + 1 + 1 = 3, not 1. However, Christians do not claim that one God plus one God plus one God equals one God, as the Jehovah's Witnesses do, and as as some critics claim that we believe. Some even go so far as to say that the idea of the Trinity contradicts the law of non-contradiction: "A" cannot be both "A" and "not A" at the same time or in the same sense. However, this is false; because God is never God and not God at the same time -- He is constant -- and the "equation" of the Trinity is not 1 and 3 at the same time. As Dr. James Kennedy puts it, "...there is in the one essence or substance of the deity three personalities: The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, who exist at the same time forever. They are not three and one in the same sense. They are three persons but only one essence" (Skeptics Answered, page 68). It is important to remember what I said at the beginning, and that is this: God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are all a PART of each Other. Remember what I said about "with"? If a book has a hardcover "with" golden lettering and pictures, each of the three may be slightly different; however, each part works together to make up the book -- each part compliments the other. So it is with the Trinity; each Person of the Trinity has a personality of His own -- they all agree with each other and work together unchangingly, but each possesses His own personality which compliments the Other's. Probably a better example of this analogy would be this: Suppose a book only has three different font sizes -- small type for the main bulk of the book, large print for the title, and medium print for chapter titles. Just because they are not exactly the same size does not mean that they are not a part of the alphabet -- they are still the same letters that make up sentences. In fact, you could take the exact same sentence in all three different sizes and lay them side by side, and you would see that they all say the same thing with the same alphabet letters; the only difference is the size. Likewise, with the Trinity, we see that God, Jesus, and the Spirit all have different personalities, but they all make up the Trinity and compliment each other, just as the letters make up the sentences.